The film grossed $81 million worldwide and was nominated at the 70th Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song.
In the Philippines, a terrorist kills the U.S. ambassador, his son, and dozens of children at an elementary school, using a vehicle-borne IED disguised as an ice cream truck. The mastermind, a Chechen terrorist named Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle), escapes to a training camp in Indonesia. Elsewhere in Costa Rica, two CIA operatives, Walter Ross (Nestor Serrano) and Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sánchez) meet to consolidate intelligence about their target, a drug smuggler named Mikhail "Christo" Troykovich. Christo's men kill Ross and capture Morales, who is imprisoned in a jungle compound and tortured.
At Coronado, the members of Bandito Platoon, SEAL Team Seven are at home. Lieutenant Rorke (Rorke Denver) confides to Chief Dave that his wife is pregnant and has the entire team spend time together with their families until their next deployment. A squad from the platoon consisting of Rorke, Dave, Wiemy, Mikey, Ray, Sonny, and Ajay, is then deployed to Costa Rica to exfiltrate Morales.
The seven Navy SEALs insert into the jungle via HALO and hold position outside the compound all night. At dawn, they approach the compound, hear Morales being tortured, and decide to enter the compound early. Rorke and Weimy, the team sniper, provide cover for the other five, led by Dave, who conduct room-clearing, engaging several enemy guards. Mikey is shot in the head, blinding him in one eye, and knocking him unconscious, though he survives. The SEALs extract Morales, escaping with her and recovering a cellphone full of the information she had gathered. However, the gunfight alerts the enemy quick reaction force down the road, who drive toward the camp. The SEALs commandeer an enemy truck and exfiltrate. The hot pursuit forces them to revert to a tertiary extraction point where the SOC-R boats extract the team and neutralize the enemy pursuit with miniguns.
Christo and Shabal, who are revealed to have been childhood friends, meet in Kiev. Christo knows the CIA is watching him and informs Shabal that subordinates will complete their project, which is to equip suicide bombers with specialized vests.
On the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, Rorke is informed that the intelligence recovered confirms Shabal and Christo were working together. Shabal, an old-school Muslim terrorist, seeks to bring jihad to the U.S., while Christo provides the routes for smuggling drugs and people into the U.S.. Ajay and Ray, are sent to Somalia, where an arms transfer involving Shabal is taking place. The remaining SEALs, comprising Rorke, Dave, Sonny and Weimy, stay in the U.S. in case the terrorists make it in. Miller himself has been reassigned to SEAL Team Four, hunting for Christo somewhere on the oceans. Lieutenant Rorke gives Dave a letter to give to his family in case he is killed.
Shabal and sixteen terrorists are found to be on an island off Baja California, where the SEALs act to secure the island, killing eight terrorists. Shabal and eight others escape. Elsewhere, in the South Pacific, SEAL Team Four captures Christo and interrogate him. Christo and Shabal are found to be associates and that there is a plan to detonate vest bombs throughout the U.S., in order to cause panic and economic disruption with the goal to surpass that of the September 11 attacks.
The SEALs are informed that Shabal is en route to the U.S. via tunnels underneath a milk factory, and are ordered to link up with Mexican Special Forces and neutralize the remaining targets. Arriving at the factory, the SEALs and Mexican forces launch an assault there. During the gunfight, a combatant throws a grenade, and Rorke dives on it to save his team before it detonates, killing him. Dave pursues the terrorists and shoots them as they try to escape through the tunnels. He is then shot several times and gravely wounded by Shabal, who is intercepted and killed by Sonny before he could execute Dave.
At home, Rorke is given a military funeral with full honors, where the SEALs pay their respects. It is then revealed that Dave's narration throughout the movie was a written letter meant for Rorke's son. The film ends with a dedication to every U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action since 9/11 along with a listing of their names as well as a photo montage of other everyday public servants (soldiers, police, firefighters, etc.).Jason Cottle as Abu Shabal
Rorke Denver as Lieutenant Rorke James Engel
Alex Veadov as Christo
Roselyn Sánchez as Lisa Morales
Nestor Serrano as Walter Ross
Emilio Rivera as Sanchez
Drea Castro as Recruit
Keo Woolford as Recruit
Thomas Rosales, Jr. as Christo's RHM
Gonzalo Menendez as Commander Pedros
Ailsa Marshall as Jackie Engel (Lt. Engel wife's)
In 2007, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh of Bandito Brothers Production filmed a video for the Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen which led the U.S. Navy to allow them to use actual active duty SEALs. After spending so much time working closely with the SEALs, McCoy and Waugh conceived the idea for a modern-day action movie about this covert and elite fighting force. As Act of Valor developed with the SEALs on board as advisors, the filmmakers realized that no actors could realistically portray or physically fill the roles they had written and the actual SEALs were drafted to star in the film. The SEALs would remain anonymous, as none of their names appear in the film's credits.
For the Navy, the film is an initiative to recruit SEALs. According to The Huffington Post, the Navy required the active-duty SEALs to participate.
Relativity Media acquired the rights to the project on June 12, 2011 for $13 million and a $30 million in prints and advertising commitment. Deadline.com called it "the biggest money paid for a finished film with an unknown cast". The production budget was estimated to be between $15 million and $18 million.
Filming took place in Cambodia where an explosion was shot in Phnom Penh with 300 children as extras. Scenes were shot in San Diego at Blue Foot Bar and in a house in the North Park area. Other locations included Mexico, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Florida, and at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The crew filmed at Navy training sites to provide realistic settings, such as a drug cartel base, a terrorist camp on an isolated island, and a smuggler's yacht.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut used Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras with Zeiss ZE and Panavision Primo lenses. The cameras followed the SEALs' planned out missions in the film. Hurlbut used an 18mm Zeiss ZE mounted on the SEALs' helmets to capture their point of view. The 25mm Zeiss ZE was used to capture natural light coming through windows. The 21mm Zeiss ZE was used as a stake cam so a truck could drive over it. The Navy held final cut privileges in order to remove any frames to address security concerns and kept raw footage to use for real-life training and other purposes.
Act of Valor was scheduled to be released on February 17, 2012 in the U.S. to coincide with Presidents' Day, but was pushed back to February 24, 2012. The film was released in the UK and Ireland on March 23 as Act of Valour by Momentum Pictures.
Act of Valor was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on June 5, 2012 with a rating of R.
The film was a 2012 Teen Choice Awards nominee for Choice Action Movie.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 24% based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It's undeniably reverent of the real-life heroes in its cast, but Act of Valor lets them down with a clichéd script, stilted acting, and a jingoistic attitude that ignores the complexities of war." Metacritic assigned the film an average score of 40 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences on CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A", on an A+ to F scale.
The film opened at #1 at the box office, earning $24.5 million in its opening weekend from 3,039 theaters for an average of $8,054 per theater.
Many reviews, both positive and negative, expressed praise for the action sequences while criticizing the plot and acting. Claudia Puig from USA Today, for example, said the action in the film is "breathtaking," but gave the film an overall negative review, in which she wrote that "the soldiers' awkward line readings are glaring enough to distract from the potency of the story." Similarly, Amy Biancolli from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Act of Valor is intended to wow audiences with high-test action while planting a giant wet kiss on the smacker of the U.S. military – and it scores at both tasks," but that, ultimately, "the film gets snagged by its own narrative convention." Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter had a similar opinion, stating, "Although the film has its undeniably immersive, convincing moments, the merging of dramatic re-creations and on-camera 'performances' proves less seamlessly executed than those masterfully coordinated land, sea and air missions."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half out of four stars, and complained that "we don't get to know the characters as individuals, they don't have personality traits, they have no back stories, they don't speak in colorful dialogue, and after the movie you'd find yourself describing events but not people." The movie was accused of having an antisemitic subtext by bloggers Debbie Schlussel and Pamela Geller as well as other Jewish sources.
Relativity Media released the film's soundtrack on February 21, 2012. It includes 10 songs by country music artists. The first cut on the soundtrack, Keith Urban's "For You", was released as a single. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.